What is Leaky Gut?
Leaky gut is a condition that foremost affects your intestinal lining.
Your intestinal lining covers more than 4,000 square feet of intestines! And it has a big job to do.
The material in your gut lining acts like a filter that determines what gets absorbed by the bloodstream and what is to ultimately become waste.
The gut lining is like a border patrol between your gut and the rest of our body, controlling what’s allowed to enter the blood.
A healthy intestinal lining will filter out the bad and let the good stuff like nutrients pass through into the body.
So, when we talk about leaky gut, what we’re really referring to are perforations in the gut lining that can allow stuff we don’t want through the barrier.
Things like toxins and undigested foods can penetrate the tissues of the gut lining, causing major changes in the gut flora, not to mention the disruptions caused by letting in the bad and not properly digesting and absorbing the good
The gut is a wild place, and even small events like poor nutrient choices can have major repercussions.
Imbalanced gut flora can cause digestive issues, yeast infections, inflammation, mental health challenges, and much more.
The terms “gut inflammation” and “leaky gut” are sometimes used interchangeably, which makes sense as they are both the cause and effect.
Gut inflammation and imbalance can cause leaky gut, while leaky gut can cause further inflammation of the gut.
Either way, you’re not a winner.
Leaky gut’s technical term used by many in the medical community is “intestinal permeability”.
People with celiac and Crohn’s disease may also have an issue with intestinal permeability or hyperpermeability.
In this condition, toxins that possibly leak out of the gut trigger an abnormal immune response which in turn, causes symptoms of Crohn's disease.
How to Know if You Have Leaky Gut
Some people with leaky gut have major digestive issues (not fun in crowded places).
Others can become clinically depressed.
There are also a lot of people who simply feel like crap most days out of the week, and they can’t pinpoint exactly what’s going on.
Some experience skin issues, some hair issues, some low energy, and on and on.
There’s an added layer of messiness because many medical doctors don’t know about or talk about leaky gut.
Even though the condition is rooted in scientific research, it’s not taught in most medical schools.
So let's discuss the whole leaky gut thing, including the signs and symptoms that indicate this could be the underlying issue.
We’ll also discuss the risk factors for leaky gut syndrome and what you can do today to jumpstart healing if you think you have it.
Leaky Gut Symptoms
Leaky gut symptoms are caused by inflammation of the gut and imbalances of flora in the microbiome.
And as just explained, the root of this is damage to the gut lining that messes up our gut’s built-in border patrol.
If you’re curious about the signs of leaky gut, you can expect all your gastrointestinal favorites and more:
- Other digestive issues like indigestion
- Food sensitivities
- Irritable bowel
- Chronic fatigue
- Generally feeling like crap most of the time.
Psychological Symptoms of Leaky Gut
Leaky gut and poor gut health in general won’t just make you run to the bathroom during meetings or attempt to hide embarrassing bouts of gas.
They can actually change the way you feel psychologically.
As we explained earlier, ‘leaks’ in the gut happen when the intestinal lining is damaged and toxins are therefore allowed to enter the blood through the cracks and holes.
This is how leaky gut can cause depression:
The toxins that seep through the intestinal lining trigger proteins called cytokines. Cytokines are inflammatory and alter the creation and transmitting of the neurotransmitters that dictate mood regulation. This effect overlays on top of the energy-sapping effects of the condition.
The results can be lethargy and negative emotional responses like anxiety and depression.
Does every single person who is depressed have a leaky gut? No.
But it shouldn’t be ruled out in individual cases, either, without exploration.
That’s because multiple studies confirm that the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. For people with either of these conditions, optimizing gut health certainly isn’t a bad idea.
For that matter, anyone — even those people without leaky gut syndrome — does themselves a huge favor when they prioritize their gut health.
Do I Have Leaky Gut?
If you have the symptoms of leaky gut like those listed above, your microbiome may be in need of some serious help, especially if you are more at-risk.
Risk factors for leaky gut syndrome include:
- Poor diet aka lots of processed foods, little fruits and veggies
- High alcohol consumption
- Chronic stress
- An already-imbalanced gut due to antibiotic use, autoimmune disease, or other conditions
A combination of symptoms along with risk factors could indicate something’s going on in your gut.
But what’s great is that even if you don’t technically have a ‘leaky gut’, prioritizing your gut health will do wonders for your overall wellness.
No matter who you are or what conditions you do or do not have.
What’s Good for Gut Health?
There’s a lot you can do on your own to keep your gut in tip-top shape, with a beautifully balanced microbiome.
Good gut health will mean your body can better fight off infection. You can look forward to mood regulation, too! (Is there anything the gut can’t do?)
Here are a few tips to boost your gut health, whether you have leaky gut or not:
- Take probiotics – Research shows that probiotics can actually help reverse leaky gut. Now, that’s some good news for a healthy gut!
- Eat more fermented foods – While a probiotic supplement is great, fermented foods are naturally brimming with probiotics. You can ferment food at home or pick some up at your local market. Think kombucha, sauerkraut, and kefir.
- Stay away from antibiotics in meat and dairy – Most animals in the U.S. factory farm system are pumped up with large amounts of antibiotics to keep them ‘healthy’. What do these do? They kill your precious gut bacteria. They’re merciless. So, when eating dairy or meat, try to opt for brands that do not treat their animals with antibiotics (no hormones is a plus as well).
- Enlist help– Getting streamlined guidance from a certified nutritionist, naturopath, or functional medicine doctor can put you on the fast track to gut healing. These professionals can formulate a custom treatment plan to get you feeling better again.
If you think you have leaky gut
If you’re experiencing the signs and symptoms of leaky gut, the good news is that you can get on a path to turning things around pretty quickly.
You’ll need to overhaul your gut health and help heal your gut lining.
Along with sometimes-necessary lifestyle changes, optimizing your gut health and healing your leaky gut can lead to some amazing benefits:
- Better digestion
- Better sleep
- Better mood
- Stronger immunity
- More energy
In a nutshell — you won’t feel like crap all the time!
Getting treatment for leaky gut
Increasing your ‘good’ bacteria and addressing gut inflammation head on can be the key to overall wellness.
The immune system lives in the gut, and research shows that even your psychological wellness is impacted by gut health (or lack thereof).
The gut faces an onslaught of trouble these days anyways, due to a number of factors like:
- Antibiotics (over-prescription and in meat and dairy products)
- Processed foods
- Processed sugars
- Acidic diets
- And more.
Many healthcare practitioners and other members of the medical and scientific communities have acknowledged and understand the powerful impact gut health has on both overall wellness and specific conditions.
However, leaky gut syndrome is NOT taught in medical school.
And as is the case with other emerging scientific research, many doctors are behind the curve.
There are a lot of people out there suffering with low energy, chronic illness, and other conditions that can be addressed from the inside out with the gut.
But often, people feel like crap and go to their doctors only to get incorrect diagnoses without examining what may be the real underlying condition.
This is one of the reasons functional medicine is so important…
We try to treat the CAUSE of the condition, not just address the condition itself.
Sometimes these treatments won’t sound like what your GP would advise. Things like exercise, sunshine, herbs, dietary regimens, and more.
If you want to treat leaky gut, it’s best to take a more holistic approach, since the gut affects the whole system.
If your GP has not heard of leaky gut but you think you have the signs and symptoms of leaky gut syndrome, find a functional medicine practitioner near you to discuss treatment options.
Want to speak to a functional medicine professional about having a leaky gut?
Book a free 15-minute consultation with Dr. Daniel.